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condition: Panic And Agoraphobia

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Panic Attacks

CBT for panic begins with an assessment of the key features of each attack. Typical triggers, emotions, bodily sensations, accompanying thoughts and actions are identified and their respective roles in triggering and then keeping attacks going are explored in detail.

Developing a clear and comprehensive understanding of the factors responsible for maintaining panic attacks can be crucial in assisting the person to begin to undermine and then resolve this demoralising and debilitating problem.

Treatment of panic attacks involves the person putting themselves in anxiety inducing situations and allowing themselves the opportunity of discovering whether their fears are realistic, or whether these have become exaggerated and distorted as a result of the intense fearfulness that accompanies them. This is naturally very frightening and may best be attempted initially in sessions with the therapist. When the person feels confident to do so, they may begin to try out some the strategies discussed in therapy to test out the value of such techniques.

As with depression and other mental health problems, long-held beliefs and assumptions that people hold about themselves can also be responsible for making them vulnerable to panic attacks. Where this is the case, CBT works to positively influence these factors in an attempt to reduce the risk of future relapse.

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks consist of an anxiety provoking range of bodily sensations. These may include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Urge to urinate
  • Trembling

These physical sensations are typically accompanied by frightening thoughts such as:

  • I’m going to die
  • I’m going mad
  • I’m going to lose control
  • I’m going to suffocate
  • I’m going to have a heart attack

Understandably, sufferers seek safety in such circumstances and attempt to get out of the panic situation as quickly as possible. Alternatively, the fear of panic attacks may be so great that situations likely to induce anxiety are avoided altogether, or can only be endured in the company of a trusted companion. This can lead to individuals becoming virtually housebound, a consequence known as Agoraphobia.

When an individual is fearful of having repeated and unexpected panic attacks, they are described as having Panic Disorder.

As described above, Panic attacks can become a disabling and demoralising problem for many people. Up to approximately 10% of the British population will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives. Additionally, this can lead to low mood, and may be accompanied by further problems such as social anxiety, low self-esteem and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Fortunately, panic attacks are very treatable. CBT is listed within the National Institute for Clinical Excellence Guidelines for Anxiety Disorders (2004) as the treatment of choice for this problem.

 

the therapists

Dr Tim Sweeney

Dr Tim Sweeney

Postgraduate Diploma (Cognitive Therapy), BSc (Hons), Specialist Practitioner - Mental Health, BA (Hons), Diploma in Nursing - Mental Health... Read More

What Is CBT?

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy that looks at how you think about yourself, the world and other people, and... Read more

Confidentiality

All discussions that take place in your therapy sessions are treated as confidential...

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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common anxiety disorder that affects up to approximately 2%...
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